Condor Christmas

Tonight, there was a special segment on the CBS Evening News on the endangered California Condor. From a low of 20 condors in the early 90’s, thanks to a breeding program at the LA and San Diego zoos, the population is up to 400. Of course, Big Sur was mentioned. Featured was the work by PG&E (supported by our local Blaze Engineering)to bury miles of electrical lines, bring in helicopters to assist. The cost? $4.2 million dollars, the most ever spent to protect an endangered species.

The California Condor, more than any other critter,symbolizes the Big Sur Coast. One more step to ensure its survival.

So, today, I call Condor Christmas. Maybe that shooting star many of us in Big Sur saw this morning at dawn was our reward for bringing this majestic bird back from the brink of extinction.

6 thoughts on “Condor Christmas

  1. Fantastic, Condor Christmas, I like it, yep, it’s been a lot of work and dedication from what I’ve read over the years but the results are something to be proud of. Congrats to all who have been involved in that. I, too, think of Big Sur and the condor’s as definitely related.

  2. When I departed to Idaho back last Dec 16 to be with Jana, who has had to stay there since we lost our residence in that horrible flooding, I was driving up the coast from the school to Monterey Airport, and a big glorious condor swooped right over my truck, and kept station right in front of me from Coast Gallery almost to Grimes. It seemed to be a symbolic send-off. A day later, while fishing on the Boise River, a large bald eagle did the same exact thing! Tomorrow, I return back to work at the school. Maybe there is some sort of message there. While in Idaho, I did a series of watercolors of the most spectacular mountains of Idaho. Maybe I’ll do the same for Big Sur’s peaks. Yup, I need to paint,after losing all those paintings in the flooding.
    May 2012 be a happy, prosperous one!

  3. Well…not so fast. If you were around for the battle over the last few wild condors, you remember the players were conservationists versus well funded, zoo based wildlife programs. The zoos won, and took great risks with the few remaining wild birds in the name of establishing a breeding program. The result was a diminished attention to preserving actual habitat and a very sketchy genetic bottleneck for the condor’s survival. Now, of course, the habitat issues—power lines, residual ddt, lead shot, etc.—still must be addressed. But it remains to be seen, and won’t be for a long while yet, whether the genetic risk was worth it. Conclusion? It is vastly more expensive and scientifically risky to rebuild wild systems once you let them break down first.

  4. I would also like to add that we all remember Condor Biologist, Mike Tyner, this holiday. He lost his life while conducting condor restoration efforts in Big Sur a month ago. He was a staunch protector of nature and had spent the last six years of his life helping VWS establish a condor flock in Big Sur. I had the honor to work alongside Mike and can say that he wouldn’t want us to give up. Yes, there are still big obstacles to overcome, although the genetic bottleneck is the least of our concerns (as reported to us by the Smithsonian’s leading geneticist). Lead poisoning is at the top of the list of threats and we have been making great strides in reducing this threat to condors in California with the recent ban on lead ammunition in the condor range of California. The DDT threat is slowing disappearing, although there is still enough residual DDT in the marine enviroment to cause eggshell thinning in condors. The good news is that there are no new inputs of DDT (it was banned 40 years ago), so this threat is gradually fading away. The recent powerline removal in Big Sur to help protect condors is unprecedented for utility companies like PG&E and this could set a whole new standard for reducing raptor collisions/electrocution. Were not out the clear by any means, but I like to think were over the biggest hump in the recovery of this majestic bird. Thank you Big Sur for welcoming back the condor…I think they really like it here! I know I do…Happy Holidays from the Condor team.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.